Azerbaijan launched a military campaign Tuesday in what the country called an “anti-terrorist” operation in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region, the site of two previous wars with Armenia.
The Azerbaijan military operation is stoking fears that a major war is on the horizon and could complicate geopolitical tensions for Russia, which has played a peacekeeping role between the two nations.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry announced Tuesday that forces had entered Karabakh, a region that is internationally recognized in Azerbaijan but is home to thousands of ethnic Armenians, in a mission to restore order.
Azerbaijani forces are targeting military installations and infrastructure but are also moving to confront Armenian armed groups near residential areas. At least two civilians have reportedly died. The Azerbaijan Ministry said armed forces are not targeting civilian areas.
Azerbaijan is calling for Armenian armed forces to immediately withdraw from the region, which is home to around 120,000 people.
Armenia, which on Tuesday said its borders are stable, claims it does not host any military forces in the region and accused Baku of ethnic cleansing.
“We strongly condemn this aggression & mass atrocity crime & call on international partners to undertake clear & unequivocal steps to put end to Azerbaijan’s aggression,” wrote Armenia’s Foreign Ministry on X, formerly Twitter.
Hikmet Hajiyev, an assistant of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, said Yerevan was hosting an “Illegal separatist puppet regime” in Karabakh.
“The armenian armed forces stationed in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan must be disarmed,” he wrote on X.
Nagorno-Karabakh is a mountainous region in the eastern Europe and West Asia geographic area, known as the South Caucasus.
The region has long been contested by Armenia and Azerbaijan but was recognized as part of Azerbaijan in the Soviet Union. When the communist bloc began to collapse, both countries fought a war in the late ’80s and early ’90s, which led to Armenia seizing control of most of the region.
A brokered end to the conflict created an independent region with close ties to Armenia. This led to years of continued clashes and a 44-day war in 2020, in which Azerbaijan reclaimed most of the territory in the region.
Tensions and spats have continued to build up in the past few years between both nations despite Russia acting as a mediator to reach a peace solution.
Russia has kept thousands of peacekeepers in the region. Armenia is now asking for Moscow to step in to resolve the current military crisis.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia’s goal was to try and convince Yerevan and Baku to come to the table, though he admitted the situation for peacekeepers remained “uneasy,” reported Russian state-run media outlet TASS.
The conflict is also likely to come up during a United Nations Security Council meeting Wednesday.
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